THE GAME AT A GLANCE
Turning Point: It looked like the Titans were destined to finally break through with the game-winning run in a wacky 11th inning, but Cory Vanderhook was picked off third base by Matt Danford for the second out of the inning, and the Tar Heels were able to wriggle out of a bases-loaded jam. Five Fullerton players reached base in the inning without scoring, or even getting a hit.
The Hero: UNC shortstop Josh Horton crushed a ball just foul down the right-field line in the 13th inning, but he came back in the at-bat with an RBI single to right field that scored Mike Cavasini for the go-ahead run. Horton finished 3-for-6 with two RBIs.
You May Not Have Noticed: The North Carolina bullpen turned in 5 2/3 stellar innings of work after Jonathan Hovis relieved starter Andrew Miller in the eighth inning. Hovis, Danford and Andrew Carignan allowed five hits and four walks but did not allow CSF to score. The trio struck out six and took advantage of the shifting wind by getting the Titans to hit more fly balls than George Horton would have liked. In the late innings, the wind killed anything hit to left field, including four Fullerton fly balls against the UNC bullpen.
Instead, it was the Tar Heels that used a perfectly called hit-and-run in the top of the 13th inning to spark a two-run rally that led to a 7-5 win in front of a crowd of 23,385 at Rosenblatt Stadium. Third baseman Reid Fronk's hit-and-run single put runners at the corners with no outs for shortstop Josh Horton, who delivered a go-ahead RBI single
"They way they scored, they beat us at our own game," Fullerton coach George Horton said.
Catcher Tim Federowicz singled home Fronk three batters later to give North Carolina a two-run cushion that closer Andrew Carignan held for his 14th save despite allowing two baserunners. That ended a four-hour, 53-minute game that came up 20 minutes shy of becoming the longest game in College World Series history.
"We were not going to quit," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "We kept battling and hung in there. I was happy to get this game behind us and relax a little bit."
The game was supposed to be tight with All-Americans Andrew Miller and Wes Roemer starting on the mound. But North Carolina and Cal State Fullerton combined for nine runs in the first three innings.
Horton's RBI single in the fifth tied the score, then neither team touched home plate again until the Tar Heels' 13th-inning rally against Lauren Gagnier (14-5), the Titans' other All-America starter who threw 43 pitches in 2 1/3 innings of relief.
North Carolina relievers Jonathan Hovis, Matt Danford (7-1) and Carignan weren't flawless, but they combined for 5 2/3 scoreless innings against Fullerton (48-14). They helped strand 14 Fullerton baserunners for the game, and eight from the ninth through 13th innings.
"It's amazing," UNC starter Andrew Miller said. "The way they came in and shut them out. We basically shut Fullerton out for 10 innings after the third. That's just incredible."
Fullerton's best scoring chance came in the 11th inning. Five runners reached base without the benefit of a hit, including two who struck out and got on because of a throwing error by Federowicz and then a passed ball. Fullerton had runners at the corners with one out when Matt Danford picked Cory Vanderhook off third base.
"I felt like when we got out of that inning we might have a chance to win," said Fox, whose team won its first CWS game since he played for North Carolina in 1978. "We were very fortunate."
Fullerton missed another good scoring opportunity in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Titans had runners on first and second with two outs when Hovis, the nation's ERA leader, got Brett Pill to pop out to Horton on a full count.
"That's just the way it goes sometimes," said Fullerton second baseman Justin Turner, who had four hits in seven at-bats. "We had runners on base, we just couldn't get a timely hit."
Miller tied a season high by allowing five earned runs, but gave up only one hit after Jared Clark's three-run homer with two outs in the third inning. The College Player of the Year struck out nine batters and walked three in 7 1/3 innings, though he surrendered two homers after having allowed only one all season entering the game.
Roemer also allowed two home runs for the first time all year, with Reid Fronk and Benji Johnson serving as the sluggers. North Carolina scored five earned runs against the Big West Conference pitcher of the year in eight innings, just the second time all season Roemer had allowed more than four runs.